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Startup Stay: Because New Entrepreneurs Don’t Have Expense Accounts

A new site gives startup founders a chance at much more than a free place to crash.

The rise of the scrappy, startup entrepreneur—combined with the expense account-shrinking recesssion—has irrevocably changed what it means to travel for business. Today's entrepreneur isn't expected to be able to stay at the Four Seasons—it's more like a Motel 6 or maybe even a friend's couch.

This is what tech entrepreneur Fred Caballero had in mind when he co-founded the London-based Startup Stay, which caters more to a “22 year old [entrepreneur] wearing a T-shirt, carrying a MacBook, and hacking out in a Starbucks,” than one “wearing a suit and tie in a Ferrari.”

Given the transformed nature of entrepreneurship, Caballero and his co-founder Facundo Villaveiran—both Argentinian natives who have lived and worked in different countries and cities around the world—were eager to find a way to combine travel and startups, something of a natural combination.

“We communicate through the [social networking site] Yammer and we started seeing entrepreneurs in Riga asking folks in London ‘Hey guys we’re going over to London to meet investors. Can we crash on your couch for a couple of nights?’” Caballero said. “Entrepreneurs are real boot-strappers—they don’t always have money to spend on accommodation.”

Thus in June, Caballero and Villaveiran launched Startup Stay, a platform which allows entrepreneurs seeking connections and accommodation in other cities to find each other. In just eight weeks the platform has collected members in 418 cities and 75 countries around the world.

The fact that entrepreneurs have taken to this so widely is no surprise—small scale entrepreneurship is on the rise. A recent study showed that for each month starting in March 2011, 543,000 new enterprises have been launched in the U.S.

His website's formula is fairly simple, but Caballero is eager to point out the differences between Startup Stay and other web-based accommodation sites, such as Air BnB and CouchSurfer. Not a social networking site, the platform is invite only, so a new member must either apply and be approved by the founders or be invited by another existing member. In addition, members seeking connections in a given city can search through a variety of parameters: by industry, by level of interaction (anything from a brief coffee meeting to overnight accommodation), or by skills (if you’re looking to pick the brain of a developer, for example).

“People giving us advice [before we launched] said that this was a niche of a niche—that it’s too small,” said Caballero. “But entrepreneurs have identified with us immediately. We provide an opportunity for a match: sometimes it’s just going to be a very convenient free bed and sometimes—when you’re looking for a local contact and your host taps into their network and connects you— it can be very transformative.”

Entrepreneurs looking to maximize their networking opportunities on their next trip can request an invite to the service here.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user malouette

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